Four Door Adrenaline On and Off Road
2001 Explorer Sport Trac 4x4
In 1996, at the Los
Angeles Auto Show, Ford unveiled the Adrenalin concept truck. Built to
gauge consumer reaction to a compact, four door pickup, the public's response
to the stylish Adrenalin was so overwhelming that Ford gave the go-ahead
on the vehicle.
"It was such a runaway
hit, we actually had to pull it off the show circuit because we were afraid
the competition would see the crowds gathering around and react with a
version of their own," said Jim O'Connor, President, Ford Division.
As the Adrenalin
design matured for production, so did its place in Ford's vast truck portfolio.
Ford's consumer research
indicated that a number of SUV owners, specifically those with Explorers,
were looking for a vehicle with a little more versatility than the trucks
they were currently driving. Translation: SUV owners wanted a truck they
could comfortably sit four people in but still use for 'dirty' tasks -
like running to the plant nursery or hauling muddy mountain bikes - and
mucking up the interior of their SUVs for these tasks was unacceptable.
After all the research
Ford decided to move the Ranger-based Adrenalin concept to the Explorer
side-of-the-house for production. Taking
advantage of the Explorer's better name recognition over the relatively
less popular Ranger pickup, and also basing the chassis on the Explorer's,
the Adrenalin-inspired 2001 Explorer Sport Trac made its debut in 1999
at the North American International Auto Show in Detroit.
Ford has done two
things different from its competitors with the Explorer Sport Trac. Officially
categorizing the Sport Trac an SUV when the rest of the pack considers
their competing vehicles four door pickups, the Sport Trac's stout looks
are also unique. Competitor's four door trucks are derivatively styled
from two door pickups
like the Dodge Dakota Quad Cab and Nissan Frontier Crew Cab.
Inside & Out
The interior of the
Explorer Sport Trac is comfortable and well designed.
Starting with the
dashboard area, the instrument panel is nice and clean with trendy black
on white gauges.
Aside from push buttons
on the stereo and on the steering wheel for cruise control, just about
all the other control surfaces on the dash are twist dials. The excellent
heating, ventilation and air conditioning controls especially stand out
with all functions condensed into three simple dials. Nice.
A nifty Sport Trac
option is the rear power window controlled by a 'push-button dial' just
to the left of the radio. Twist the knob left or right to open or close
the window or push it once to open the window about two inches for venting.
Only one gripe about the window -- it only can be set in three positions:
fully closed, fully open, and two inches open.
Our Sport Trac came
with the standard single CD AM/FM stereo but if you can afford the option
order the new six CD in-dash premium sound system.
The Explorer Sport
Trac is able to accommodate up to five adults, though it can be a squeeze
depending on how big the adults are in the back seat.
Cloth seating up
front and in the rear included power controls for the driver. Rear passengers
will enjoy the room offered in the back of the cab and the split-folding
seats recline at a reasonable angle, critical for long trips in the Sport
Trac. The rear seats can be folded forward to provide additional storage.
Just behind the rear seats is an additional bin for storage and another
bin containing emergency road side tools. If you have a baby seat the
Sport Trac also includes hidden anchor hooks to secure the seat firmly
Between the driver
and passenger seats, located under the folding armrest, is a removable
The floor surface
of the Sport Trac is made with a composite rubber material. Quite easy
to clean after tracking dirt in the truck, the floors are also covered
with very cool Berber mats. It's funny how removing carpeted floors from
trucks these days seems to push them upmarket in the eyes of consumers.
On the outside our
harvest gold color Sport Trac sure did look like a pickup truck.
The grille on the
Sport Trac is shared only with the Explorer Sport two door SUV. It lends
a more aggressive fascia when compared to the Ford Ranger's front end.
Beefy fender flares
add character to the truck's personality and give the appearance of greater
A profile shot of
the Sport Trac reveals the thought Ford put into the rear passenger area.
The back of the curvilinear cabin blends nicely into the bed that slightly
surrounds it. If you compare the Sport Trac to its competitors, say the
Nissan Frontier, you will
notice the dramatic difference in how much more room the Ford has past
the B-pillar. The Sport Trac is actually much closer in appearance to
Nissan's SUT concept truck than
The bed on the Sport
Trac is different from most of the beds found on trucks today. It's very
small, though Ford manages to make the most of it. At only 50 inches long
the bed's volume is enhanced by making it 19.7 inches deep providing 29.6
cubic feet of volume. The Sport Trac is also the first truck in the industry
to use an all composite bed made from sheet molded composite (SMC) plastic.
The composite bed realizes a 20% savings in weight over a conventional
bed which helps with fuel economy and ensures it will never rust.
Inside the bed are
four tie down hooks that look like bottle openers and a 12-volt power
port. On the outside rail of the bed are six more robust tie down hooks,
similar in design to what you might find when docking a boat.
If you need a longer
bed to carry, say, some plywood Ford offers an optional $200 aluminum
bed extender that quickly snaps into place. The bed extender pivots around
a 180-degree angle to either secure itself on the tailgate or store within
the bed. It does take up a fair amount of room when not in use.
During our test of
the Sport Trac its bed proved quite up to the task of a manure run at
the local Home Depot where we fit approximately 20 bags in the truck with
room to spare.
On (and Off) the
Under the Explorer
Sport Trac's power bulge hood was Ford's excellent 4.0-liter single overhead
cam (SOHC) V-6. The
205 horsepower engine was more than enough to move the Sport Trac on or
off the road even though our test truck weighed in at a somewhat portly
4,400 pounds with its optional 4 wheel drive and automatic transmission.
A five speed transmission will be available later this year for the Sport
the weight, the Sport Trac averaged 18.4 mpg during a 200 mile stretch
of combined highway and surface street driving.
For some off-road
driving we took Ford's "No Boundaries" theme to heart and headed
to Hollister Hills state vehicular recreation area with the Sport Trac.
Hollister Hills is
located about an hour south of San Jose and its 800 acre 'Upper Ranch'
contains over 20 miles worth of 4-wheel drive trails. Trail navigation
ranges from easy green markers all the way up to the uber-difficult triple
black diamond for all but the heartiest 4x4s. We stuck to the easy 'green'
and moderate 'blue' trails with the Sport Trac.
While the truck operated
well on most sections of the trails, the driver and spotters had to compensate
at times for the Sport Trac's limited approach and departure angles and
with only 8-inches of ground clearance, and a foot longer than a regular
Explorer, the Sport Trac doesn't make for an ideal off-road companion
on steep or deeply rutted trails. There were many times we were thankful
our truck did not come with the optional step-bars which further decrease
ground clearance on the sides.
have done an admirable job beefing up the Sport Trac's IFS and rear leaf
spring suspension and extensive undercarriage shielding adds to off-road
With its 3.73:1 drive
ratio and smooth five speed transmission the Sport Trac didn't lose many
rpm's between shifts on the trails in the first three gears.
For more than the
occasional off-road excursion we would highly recommend stepping up from
the standard P235/75R-15 Firestone all-terrain OWL tires on our test truck
to the more aggressive optional P255/70R-16 Firestone all-terrain OWLs.
Summing It Up
Without doubt, of
all the four door compact pickup trucks PUTC has tested to date, the Explorer
Sport Trac is the most refined crossover vehicle on the road today.
While the Sport Trac's
4-wheel drive off-road characteristics leave something to be desired,
it's clear that Ford's targeted SUV-owning consumers, of whom 95% stick
to the paved roads, will appreciate the extra utility pickup truck owner
have known all along.
Explorer Sport Trac
part-time four-wheel drive
205 @ 5250
@ 3750 RPM
city/hwy as tested
mpg city/hwy, 4x2 model
electronically controlled five-speed automatic with overdrive
five-speed manual transmission will be offered in spring 2000
and Passenger Side Airbags; Child safety seat tether anchors at all
three locations in the rear seat
short- and long-arm type, torsion bar
Two-stage variable-rate leaf springs
Firestone all-terrain OWL (Std. on 4x4)
lbs. (4x4 automatic)
1,180 (4x4) - 1,460 (with optional payload package)
Warranty 3 years/36,000 Miles
otherwise indicated, specifications refer to test vehicle.
Information not available or not applicable.
Info Sources 1-800-392-FORD
Wheel Driving Tips
encourages those truck owners who four wheel drive to follow the guidelines
set by "Tread Lightly!®"
Lightly!® offers the following tips for off-road recreation:
Obtain a map of the area you wish to explore and determine which areas
are open for use.
Contact the land manager for area restrictions and if crossing private
property, be sure to ask permission from the land owner.
Check the weather forecast.
a group of two or more vehicles.
up for safety.
and driving don't mix
of others on the road or trail.
only where permitted.
Leave gates as you find them.
Yield the right of way to bikes, horses and hikers.
Pack out what you pack in.
designated road and trails or other areas open for use.
"spooking" livestock you encounter.
streams at fording points only.
designated wilderness areas are reserved for the most primitive outdoor
up or down a hill or grade.
obstacles at an angle, one wheel at a time.
Don't straddle large rocks.
mud if you can while remaining on the road or trail.
the steering wheel rapidly from side-to-side if you sense a loss of
into ravines or large depression at about a 45-degree angle.
ruts, even if they are wider than your vehicle. This will keep your
streams slowly, at a 90-degree angle to the stream.
thumbs on top of the steering wheel, to prevent a sprained or broken
thumb if the wheel suddenly snaps.
the tire pressure to where you see a bulge in your tire to give you
better traction and provide for a smoother ride.
Avoid riding the brakes and clutch which can lead to brake failure.
more information please visit the Tread
Lightly!® web site.